Roland Barthes: Beyond Interpretation

Instructor: Rebecca Ariel Porte
558 St. Johns Place
Brooklyn, NY 11238

What does it mean to interpret? What would it mean to move beyond interpretation? An introduction to the thought of the French philosopher, literary theorist, linguist, and semiotician, this course asks how Barthes, who began his intellectual life as a committed disenchanter, evolved from architect of structuralist demystification to theorist of affect, pleasure, pain, bliss, love, and mourning, a set of investigations foundational to (among other fields) significant strands of structuralism, postscructuralism, deconstruction, cultural studies, and queer studies.

As we Barthes’s strange, eclectic, and often frustrating body of thought—which resists any neat attempt at summation—we’ll cover a range of his provocative theoretical concepts with special reference to his literary and aesthetic claims: myth and mythology, the death of the author, jouissance, the punctum, the reality effect, the third meaning, and the neutral. Concentrating on Barthes’ later writing, this class will consider his commitment to what lies beyond interpretation as well as the experimental critical forms he invented to accommodate his changing thought. What are the ethics, implicit and explicit, of Barthes’s critical practice? How should we understand elegiac, hedonistic, and eccentric ways of reading and writing and their possible claims to meaning, feeling, and politics?

Reading assignments will move from the early semiotic analysis of Mythologies to the “novelistic” late writing and may include selections from A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, Camera Lucida, The Neutral, and Mourning Diary. Supplementary texts will draw on the writing of Barthes’s intellectual inheritors, such as Wayne Koestenbaum, Maggie Nelson, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 12 — December 03, 2018
4 weeks


Registration Open

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